Mission: Safe Sofija (adoption is a horse)

I started a post more than a year ago titled “Cutting the Horn off the Unicorn”.  That post turned into a personal vent session so I decided not to share it. This post is its replacement. I’m about to cut the horn off a unicorn…

Adoption is hard.

REALLY hard.

In order for one Mother to adopt a child, another Mother must lose a child. In order for an adopted child to attach to her/his adoptive family, that child must let go of their biological family. Adoption ALWAYS involves a lifetime war of nature vs. nurture. Sometimes nurture wins. Sometimes it doesn’t.

When you choose to have a child with someone, you usually take into account what that person will contribute to your child. Will they make pretty babies? Do they come from a long line of smart people? Do compassion and entrepreneurship run in their family? Are they athletic?

or…

Will your children be ugly, clumsy, dumb, lazy, and cold-hearted? Do heart disease, diabetes, and cancer run in both of your families? Does your potential Baby’s Daddy have a physical or learning disability?

At the end of the account taking you usually end up saying, “Hey, he meets half my desires for a Baby Daddy and I love him so let’s get busy.”

Adoption works nothing like the above scenario.

Before I go any further I want to say that I LOVE ADOPTION! I don’t want this post to leave anyone believing otherwise.

But I’m sick and tired of reading all the blogs and news articles that paint adoption as nothing but rainbows and unicorns.

In biological parenting you weigh all the knowns, and you accept the risks. In adoption you weigh all the UNknowns, and you accept the risks. I’m a risk-taker. I was made for adoption. And still… adoption has broken me, taken me to the end of myself, and shown me day after day that the only way through this life is 100% dependence on God.

Yesterday, January 10, 2015, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a parent. My husband and I admitted our nine-year old daughter to the psychiatric unit at Children’s National Medical Center. I have prayed for wisdom in sharing details leading up to this decision while protecting our daughter. The decision to admit her was ultimately made because we no longer felt that we were keeping her safe at home. She will be hospitalized anywhere from one to three weeks and in that time we will meet several times with a team of doctors and develop a plan for keeping her safe at home from this point forward.

When we began the process of adopting Sofija we knew that she had autism. We were told little else about her or her biological family and everything we WERE told was untrue. When we arrived in Serbia and met her and heard the truth of her history and experienced exactly what we were getting ourselves into, I wanted to walk away. Judge me. Think badly of me. I really don’t care. I wanted to walk away. No matter what your thoughts are, I encourage you to click that last link and read the post I wrote in Serbia while God was working on my heart. As hard as it was to move forward and as hard as every day has been for the last 57 months, we were walking in God’s will. And there’s really no place I’d rather be.

The things I feel comfortable sharing about the last few months are:

-Sofija has repeatedly run away and has spent every second of every day trying to find a way out of the house so she can get to 7eleven.

-She has hurt herself. Repeatedly, and in horrible ways.

-She has hurt us. Repeatedly, and in horrible ways.

-She refuses to stay in her seat in a car and she frequently attacks (jumps on, slaps, throws objects at, pulls hair) everyone in the car, to include the driver.

-She has hurt other students at school and on her bus.

Last, but certainly not least, she has stopped sleeping. She didn’t fall asleep AT ALL between January 2nd and January 6th and since the 6th she has slept no more than 2-4 hours per night. When she wakes up she tries to get out of the house which means that we don’t sleep. The only rest Chad and I have had for the last couple of months has been when she’s at school. We’re not living. We’re surviving. We try to keep her and us safe when she’s home and we sleep while she’s at school. That’s our life. Our life is exhausting. We are spent.

Adoption is hard.

Really hard.

But… James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means CARING FOR ORPHANS and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Does that mean every person who calls themselves a “Christian” needs to adopt? Absolutely, positively, NO. But it does mean that The Church has a responsibility to care for orphans. What does that look like? For me, today, it means sitting in a room that looks like a prison cell (with a sweet view of The Capital and the Washington Monument) with my daughter and believing that her (and our) quality of life will be a thousand times better when she is released. It means that I get to spend the rest of my life fighting the nature vs. nurture war with high hopes that nurture will win.

What does “caring for orphans” look like for you? Well, it’s honestly a question that you have to answer for yourself. I can tell you that our family is not the only adoptive family hurting. Maybe not to the same degree as us, but there are adoptive families all over the place just trying to survive.

-LOVE THEM! We’re lonely! We’re tired! We need YOU!! For quite some time we have basically been shut-ins. Because Sofija hates leaving home and her favorite way of taking control in the car is to jump on the person driving, leaving our house as a family has literally required risking our lives. She’s almost 5’1″, weighs 87lbs, runs like a cheetah, and she’s strong as an ox. We NEED people to come to us.

-Stop judging us!!! We need love and grace and compassion and there just isn’t any room in our lives for judgment. And while I’m on the subject: Adoptive Moms, please stop judging other adoptive Moms. Some families choose disruption and if that is what they choose, respect that choice. I can absolutely guarantee you that the decision to disrupt is not made with any less thought than the decision to adopt. We’re all just trying to survive and care for orphans and sometimes caring for an orphan means allowing that child to become part of a new family.

-We also need people to love on our other children. They’re lonely too. They’ve made HUGE sacrifices in order for us to add a child to our family and (in our case) they have been traumatized by the addition to the family. They need some peace and normalcy and they just don’t get it at home.

-Find an adoptive family in your church and get to know them. Go to their home and try not to be freaked out by the chaos. Our church does an AMAZING job of loving on us! We have a small group of people from our church that meet at our house weekly so that we have a chance to love on others.

-Don’t be afraid to go to the homes of people with adopted children. You just might be blessed! We’ve learned more about grace, faith, hope and provision, than most people will in a lifetime. Ask us questions. Most of us miss face-to-face conversations.

-If you can financially support adoption, contribute to someone who’s in the process. Adoption is expensive (average cost is $30k-$60k) and just because someone is a risk taker with the strength and grace to parent a child from a hard place doesn’t mean that person has the financial resources to bring home a child that needs a family.

-Offer to babysit. You might get slapped or have your hair pulled or have things thrown at you; but you also just might save a marriage that’s been pushed to its limits. Did you read that? Getting uncomfortable for a few hours may just save a marriage. And a saved marriage means less trauma and loss for a child who’s lost more than anyone ever should.

-Most importantly: PRAY! Pray for our family and when you’re done, pray for other adoptive families. God answers prayers. God heals. God provides. Get on your knees or in your shower or pause before climbing out of bed and PRAY!

In adoption there are indeed rainbows; those bright, beautiful, colorful moments that fill you with hope and promise and paint a smile on your face. But like real rainbows, they fade away too soon and leave you expectantly searching for the next one to appear.

Although the rainbow moments exists, there are no unicorns. Adoption is not magical and mythical. It is hard. Really hard. But you know what? When you cut the horn off a unicorn you still have a beautiful, strong, stubborn, magnificent being. Adoption is a horse. And I like horses.

Believing that our hospital snuggles quickly become SAFE at-home snuggles. 10653833_10205720021978831_9099978568237184432_n

 

 

so my daughter ran away…

I started this blog in the fall of 2009 so that our friends and family could be a part of our journey to adopt our precious Sofija. The last five years have been one heckuva journey! We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. It was probably better that way. IMG_2216 IMG_2250 IMG_2360 IMG_2401 IMG_2409 IMG_2416 IMG_3029 IMG_3101

Sofija is amazing.

Sofija is beautiful.

Sofija is gifted, and athletic.

Sofija is the queen of selfies (Sorry, Kim Kardashian. She’s got you beat.)

Sofija is also very, very HARD.

Every single bad thing that can come from a child beginning her life in a neglectful institutional setting… she’s got it. She’s broken in a thousand ways. I have many friends with adopted and biological children who have disabilities that say, “I wouldn’t change a thing about my child.” You will not hear me say those words. I would give up a limb or one of my senses if it would heal my child.

One of the many things Sofija struggles with is a total lack of rational fears.  She has plenty of IRrational fears. But when it comes to understanding the dangers of this world… she hasn’t a clue. We have tried and tried to make her understand that she simply cannot run down the middle of the street or leave our house without us. We’ve put extra locks and alarms on the doors. Last Saturday night we grasped just how epically our efforts have failed.

We moved Sofija’s bed into our room a year and a half ago after she repeatedly got up during the night and put herself into dangerous situations or did fun things like pouring an entire jar of honey and bottle of ketchup into her bed… at the same time.

On Saturday night, after her bath, Sofija asked to play in her room. Every 5-10 minutes I checked on her. I always do. At 10pm I called her name and asked her what she was doing. She replied, “I’m still playing.” At 10:05 I called her name and told her it was time for bed. She didn’t respond. Before I got to her door I had a sinking feeling in my gut. It was too quiet. She wasn’t there. As I walked away from her room I noticed that the door to the garage was open. Walking into the garage I saw that the door from our garage to the back yard was open. There was no need to search the rest of the house. She was gone. I didn’t think to call 911. I just took off down the street in my socks. My husband took off in the opposite direction. I made it around our block, ran back in the house, grabbed the car keys, and told my son to call 911. I drove down our street with my windows down, screaming her name, and looking for any sign that she was at someone’s house. Two blocks from home I passed an unmarked cop car that was driving slowly with a search light on. I jumped in front of his car and fell apart. He asked me to please calm down and began describing Sofija to me. It turns out that one of our neighbors had seen Sofija sprinting down the road in her pajamas and glitter boots (that are two sizes too small – they were in a donation bag in the garage). The neighbor called the police. Within minutes Fairfax county search and rescue had seven police cruisers and a helicopter searching for my daughter. The policeman that I jumped in front of followed me back to our house and I listened as calls of “Sofija sightings” continued to come in on his radio. She ran from our house to 7eleven (about a mile) and when the clerk wouldn’t let her get a slurpee she ran to Safeway (a block from 7eleven) in search of ice cream cake. A police car followed her from 7eleven to Safeway and four cars cornered her at Safeway. My husband was driving around the neighborhood when an officer called from the Safeway parking lot asking for a family member because “She’s very aggressive.” EIGHT cops could not get her in the back of a police car. Her Daddy went and got her and brought her home, mad as a spring bear, because she “didn’t get a slurpee OR ice cream cake and the police lights hurt her eyes.”

I didn’t sleep Saturday night. Or Sunday night. Or much of any night since.

Sunday was spent installing new alarms and keyed chain locks. And then, Sunday night, after her bath, she put on socks and shoes and asked if she could play in her room “with the window open.”

What? The? Hell?

Seriously?!

This sinking feeling that I’m going to lose my child to an open window or unlocked door has got to be as close to hell as I ever want to come. I want peace. I need peace. My child needs a miracle.

We’ve done everything we can think of to keep her safe. She’s sleeping in our room with every door double-locked and alarms on all the doors and windows.  ~The irony has not escaped me that most people install alarms and locks to keep bad people out and we had to install them to keep a precious someone in.~ Sofija is now registered with the county as a “flight risk” and the search and rescue team have assured us that they will do everything in their power to get her home should she escape again. I’m printing postcards for our neighbors and all the local businesses with her picture and our contact information. If it was legal to microchip her, we would do it.

All that’s left is hope and prayer. If you think of us, pray for us. Pray for her safety. Pray for her healing. Pray for our peace.

Romans 5:2-5 NLT

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment…